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Published on January 17th, 2012 | by Cynthia Prairie

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State Roundup, January 17, 2012

TEACHER PENSION COSTS: Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is on the verge of asking lawmakers to reverse an 85-year-old practice of using state tax dollars to pay the bulk of teacher pension costs, a move that could open a bruising battle with local governments in a year crowded with showdowns over same-sex marriage and raising taxes, John Wagner and Aaron Davis report for the Post.

HEALTH ENTERPRISE ZONES: Gov. O’Malley’s 2012-2013 budget will include funding to create Health Enterprise Zones, where doctors and community groups in areas with large health disparities could add medical and support services for minorities, writes Meredith Cohn for the Sun. Tax credits and other financial incentives would be available to spur interest.

MISHMASH OF RALLIES: The day to honor the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was also used to rally in Annapolis to repeal the death penalty, legalize same-sex marriage, campaign for the state’s Dream Act, protect teachers, build windmills, tax millionaires and promote unions, blogs Aaron Davis of the Post. Expect it to happen every Monday evening throughout the session.

Duane Keenan attends the more solemn ceremony where members of the General Assembly remembered the civil rights leader and files a podcast for MarylandReporter.com.

JOB CREATION: Speaking at a rally last night, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown says O’Malley’s budget will include substantial increases in transportation projects that will help create jobs, John Rydell of WBFF-TV reports.

PENNY TAX HIKE: Daniel Divilio of the Easton Star-Democrat gathers reaction from Eastern Shore legislators to Gov. O’Malley’s impromptu announcement that a 1-cent hike on the state sales tax might not be such a bad thing.

DBED BRIEFING: As state economic officials prepare to update a legislative panel on two key development initiatives, business leaders and lawmakers are readying their own opinions, Lindsey Robbins reports for the Gazette.

TRIBE RECOGNITION: Childs Walker of the Sun takes a look at the long and hard-fought battle by the Piscataway tribes to gain official recognition in Maryland. Click on the video link above the story to view Mervin Savoy, trial chairwoman of the Piscataway-Conoy, explain the significance of the recognition.

The heads of two Piscataway Indian groups said they are unlikely to pursue federal recognition for now, but the leader of a third said she wants to see the process through, writes Capital News Service’s Mark Miller in the Daily Record.

EYE ON ANNAPOLIS: Nick Sohr of the Daily Record offers an audio roundup of last week in Annapolis; gives a breakdown of the Rocky Gap debt; and the friend of the court brief a number of Maryland legislators signed in support of President Obama’s health care reform, which is before the Supreme Court.

ESTATE TAX & FARMS: The editorial board for the Sun writes that if farm families are getting slammed by Maryland’s estate tax, they aren’t exactly coming out of the woodwork to seek redress.

17th AMENDMENT: The Sun’s Annie Linskey writes that two Democratic lawmakers in Annapolis want to spur a debate about the influence of money in politics and send a rebuke to Tea Party leaders by having the General Assembly ratify the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, which requires that U.S. senators be elected directly by voters instead of by state legislatures.

SCHOOL FUNDING: With local jurisdictions’ support for school “maintenance of effort” funding beginning to wane, the editorial board of the Sun opines that it is now time to hold counties accountable for cutting back on school spending, a trend that threatens the education gains made possible by Thornton reforms.

Mark Newgent of Red Maryland blogs that, with all the predictability of the sun rising in the east and setting in the west, Maryland’s teachers unions are caterwauling about the seven counties that are not meeting their maintenance of effort funding requirements under the state’s Thornton education funding mandates.

BURST PIPE: A burst pipe in the cupola of the James Senate Office Building yesterday afternoon soaked offices, staff members and carpets down to the ground floor, and closed down the building for much of the day, Megan Poinski reports for MarylandReporter.com.

Thirty-five of the state’s 47 senators have offices in the building, Annie Linskey and Michael Dresser report for the Sun.

REP RESIDENCES: At least eight candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives from Maryland — including four prominent contenders — are running this year in congressional districts that do not encompass their own homes, reports John Fritze for the Sun. Federal candidates are not required to live where they run for office.

CARDIN ON FRACKING: U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin says that while he supports Maryland’s moratorium on fracking, he believes it can be done in a safer way and national standards are needed to govern the process, Matthew Bieniek reports in the Cumberland Times-News.

UM MOVES ON MANSION: Following up a story in the Diamondback, Childs Walker of the Sun writes that the University of Maryland, College Park has gone ahead with plans to demolish and replace the on-campus home of its president, despite criticism that the $7.2 million project seems excessive when the university is cutting athletic programs and imposing furloughs on employees.

PG’S AMBITIONS: Miranda Spivack of the Post reports that the Prince George’s County Council, without last year’s corruption distraction, plans to seek ways to shore up education, environmental programs, economic development and public safety, and complete an overhaul of ethics rules that began in last year’s state legislature.

TRANSGENDER LAW: Some residents in Baltimore County are upset with a proposed law that would allow transgender people to use the bathrooms for the sex that they are representing, Joy Lepola reports for WBFF-TV.

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